From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 13 - June 22, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

New predator policy proposed

by Cat Urbigkit

The U.S. Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on its proposal to revise its directives on predator damage management in wilderness areas. The proposal could have a positive impact for livestock producers experiencing predator problems in wilderness areas in this region.

Guidance to forest officers in the management of predator damage in wilderness areas is contained in the Forest Service Manual. The proposed directives would conform agency direction regarding predator damage with provisions in an agreement between the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services Division and USFS.

Wildlife Services and the Forest Service cooperate in wildlife damage management activities on National Forest System lands asprovided for in the Animal Damage Control Act of 1931. Processes and procedures between the two agencies were adopted in an agreement that outlines the purpose of the agreement are to:

• Identify responsibilities of the respective agencies and foster a partnership in discharging the federal obligation under the AnimalDamage Control Act for the management of wild vertebrates causing damage on Forest Service lands,

• Establish general guidelines to assist field personnel in carrying out their wildlife damage management responsibilities consistent with policies of the agencies involved, and

• Strengthen the cooperative approach to wildlife damage management on Forest Service lands through the exchange of information and mutual program support.

The agreement clarifies that Wildlife Services is the responsible agency for developing, with the cooperation of the Forest Service, predator damage plans that are in conformance with applicable forest land management and wilderness plans.

The proposed revisions eliminate the use of the term “predator control’’ in favor of “predator damage management.’’

The proposed revisions are intended to strengthen the Forest Service’s role in working with Wildlife Services and state wildlife agencies in wildlife damage management activities, while recognizing that Wildlife Services and state wildlife agencies have the authority and expertise to conduct wildlife damage management activities in wilderness on Forest Service lands. For this reason, the Forest Service is removing a provision in current policy that requires case-by-case regional forester approval for predator management activities in wilderness areas. In the proposed revision, predator management activities in wilderness areas may occur when they are conducted in accordance with an approved predator management plan and provisions in the Forest Service manual.

The proposal establishes the following objectives for predator damage management activities in wilderness areas:

• Protect public health and safety.

• Protect federally listed threatened or endangered species.

• Achieve management goals and objectives for wildlife populations as identified for wilderness in forest or wilderness plans, or through other collaborative processes, such as Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategies, memorandums of understanding with state fish and wildlife agencies and so forth.

• Prevent serious loss of domestic livestock.

Predator damage management control measures “shall bedirected at the offending animal or local population and shall not jeopardize the continued viability of predator populations in the ecosystem.”

The proposal states, “When participating in the development and annual review of a predator damage management work plan in a wilderness area, Forest Service officers shall strongly discourage the use of poison baits, such as M-44 devices and livestock protection collars, except inspecific cases where there is compelling evidence that other forms of predator damage management have proven to be ineffective.”

The proposal establishes policy for conducting predator damage management activities in wilderness by requiring minimal disturbance to wilderness visitors and resources, the protection of wilderness character andcoordination with other government entities involved in predator damage management activities. The policy also recognizes predators in the ecological integrity of wilderness and adjacent non-wilderness lands and prohibits predator damage management activities that would jeopardize the continued viability of predator populations in the ecosystem.

The proposal provides authority for the regional forester to permit the use of aircraft, motorized equipment and mechanical transport and pesticides in wilderness areas under certain conditions.

The proposal states: “Landing of aircraft and use of motorized equipment and mechanical transport to facilitate implementation of predator damage management activities in wilderness areas may only occur if authorized by the regional forester upon a determination that these uses are necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area. Determination of necessity is appropriate where an emergency situation requires immediate, short-term relief, or an analysis indicates that one of these uses is the minimum tool necessary to accomplish the predator damage management activity.”

The proposal commits the Forest Service to coordinate and cooperate with Wildlife Services and states lawfully conducting predator management activities in National Forest wildernesses.

The proposal includes a provision for conflict resolution between agencies. It proposes: “When a Forest Service representative determines that a proposed management activity may have an adverse affect on wilderness resources or the continued viability of a native species, the Forest Service representative shall work with their Wildlife Services counterpart to resolve the Forest Service’s concern. If the dispute cannot be resolved, the issue shall be elevated to the next organizational level within each agency.”

The proposal states: “The Forest Service recognizes that state agencies have authority and expertise to conduct predator damage management on national forest system lands, including wilderness, and that state agencies and private individuals may perform predator damage management on NFS lands when conducted in accordance with applicable state and federal laws, regulations and policies. The Forest Service shall coordinate and cooperate with states and private individuals when predator damage management is conducted under state authority to ensure that wilderness resources on NFS lands are protected.”

Comments on the proposal must be received in writing by Aug.7. For more information, contact Don Fisher of the Forest Service WildernessP rogram at 202-205-1414 in Washington, D.C.

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